Nordic enhances commercial support for nRF9160 SiP cellular IoT customers with launch of Cloud location services

Written by Glyn High Tech

August 25, 2021

Nordic Semiconductor recently announced the launch of its ‘nRF Cloud Location Services’. The Cloud-based product enables customers to access detailed, fast and accurate commercial location services for their nRF9160 System-in-Package (SiP)-powered cellular IoT devices.

nRF Cloud Location Services builds upon Nordic’s versatile cellular IoT connectivity enabler, ‘nRF Cloud’. nRF Cloud Location Services will enable Nordic customers to access a full commercial location services model once their nRF9160 SiP-powered cellular IoT products are deployed. nRF Cloud will offer those same customers firmware over-the-air (FOTA) updates for devices in the field. 

Cell and GPS Location Services 

The nRF Cloud Location Services offering will initially comprise location services using ‘single-’ and ‘multi-cell’ location, and Assisted- and Predicted-GPS for indoor and outdoor applications. 

The single-cell method relies on identifying in which cell the tracked device is situated and then referencing the cell identification against a database of known base station geographical locations. It offers accuracy down to kilometer level while extending battery life because it does not require operation of the GPS modem. Multi-cell location builds on the single-cell technique by referencing the position of several nearby base stations to offer accuracy down to several hundred meters while still keeping power consumption very low. 

GPS offers even greater location accuracy (down to tens of meters). However, when using a cellular IoT device, a cold-start GPS modem time-to-first-fix (TTFF) on a group of satellites can take minutes and use significant battery capacity. Assisted-GPS provides near-future satellite location data to the IoT device through the cellular connection before the GPS modem is switched on. A typical result is a reduction in TTFF down to 5 seconds, helping extend battery life. The Predicted-GPS technique builds on Assisted-GPS by providing over two weeks predicted assistance satellite data to the device. The result is a short TTFF and accurate location determination but with even greater power savings because of the lower frequency of assistance data requests to the cellular network by the IoT device compared with Assisted-GPS.

Working with partners 

Nordic is partnering with multiple third-parties to ensure a high-quality service for Nordic devices and nRF Cloud customers. These partners will provide GPS assistance data, and an inexpensive and easy-to-access location history with timestamp information for each of the customer’s IoT devices. The product can also be interfaced to customers’ own applications and Cloud-presence via a user-friendly REST API as well as integrated with third-party applications.

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